How to perform quality control in China when buying or manufacturing products

quality control china

What are the solutions you can use to manage with quality control when manufacturing products in China ?

# Use a quality inspection company (third party)

Most of importers will usually contract with a china based third party quality inspection company to verify goods quality before payment and shipment.

Advantages: Cheap, flexible, fast. As third party inspection company in China usually have a wide inspector network of ressources being located in different locations, so you can leverage this network for punctual inspection assignment. You need today an inspector in Beijing and in the same time another one in Ningbo ? The inspection company will allocate simultaneously two inspectors for you in those two cities. Most of time it will cost you between 250 and 300 USD per man-day of work. You will receive a quality inspection report in your mail box within 24 hours after the inspection being over to let you know how is the quality of your production. 

Since they specialize in this activity, they take the risk of managing with people on site all year long. You don’t need to pay a monthly salary for a ressource. Most of third party inspection firms perform inspections using sampling methodology, but some of them also propose to perform a 100% inspection quality control directly at your supplier facility by allocating an inspector during the necessary time needed to check all products.

Drawbacks: You will mostly not be able to discuss directly with the inspector unless special reason. You will be in touch with an account manager who will be your point of contact.

In which situation this solution is recommended: If you have punctual orders at different factories which are located in different locations of China.

# Use a quality control platform

If you are manufacturing or buying strategic goods which need to be inspected on a one by one basis to make sure the quality of each of them, or if you need to add some value to the product after manufacturing being over (example: add or print a logo, change packaging, add bar code which you don’t want your supplier know about), then using a quality control platform in China can be an advantage. Not only, do they can control your goods quality and reject the defectives or non compliant one before packaging, but they can also perform some assembly by working like your own contract assembler or contract packager in China.

Advantages: All pieces you inspect are checked on a one by one basis so you typically eradicate the percentage of remaining defective in your production and this is done in a restricted and controlled area. This is perfect for sensible items (luxury goods, high precision items, avionics parts, automotive parts, etc…). This extra quality control step can also be added up to a final processing on your product such as final marking, final packing or final touch (such as for example loading a firmware in your electronic product)

Drawbacks: You will need to move your production final quality inspection steps to a quality control platform involving a bit some logistic and some invoicing management. This extra quality control step may incur higher cost than doing a sampling since it will take longer to perform.  Yet, instead of seeing this process as a global cost, you should better see it as an extra minimal cost per piece which ensure a 0% defect on your product. So in short, this extra investment on the unit price will be compensated by less customers complaining.

In which situation this solution is recommended: You have sensitive item which need to be checked one by one and which potentially require an extra process / treatment out of your supplier eyes sight.

# Do it yourself by flying someone from your own country

The basic solution  to control the goods is typically to fly yourself to check those goods instead of delegating it to someone else.

Advantages: You save money (at least in appearance since your hourly cost might be higher than the hourly cost of a quality inspector), you make sure the quality of your production yourself

Drawbacks: It consume a lot of your time and energy you could put somewhere else more valuable. Fatigue generated

In which situation this solution is recommended: you have time and you like to spend several weeks in Chinese environment.

At the beginning I used to like to do so but quickly it turned out that I preferred to delegate this process to someone else, so I could focus on some more interesting tasks. If you stay in a nice city it is fine, but if you are in rural area quickly you will get bored.

# Have your own quality inspection team being setup in China

If your company is big enough and have solid cash flow, then setting up your own quality control team via the establishment of a local structure can be a possibility. Yet, I rarely recommend it unless your company really have some needs of quality control every day and of your suppliers are grouped in a same area.

Advantages: You potentially lower your man-day cost and have direct access to the inspector who control the goods.

Drawbacks: You need to setup and maintain a full structure requiring to inject capital, to deal with recruitment, training, lay off, management (usually not very efficient if you are not on site to actively manage with local ressources), to handle payment every month in local currency to pay all your team.  

Because most of your staff swill be “attached” to one of your legal structure, if you have suppliers in different area of China, you can not map the whole territory easily without making your staff to fly here and there. Travel cost will inflate your budget probably quickly, will make your ressources tired and less efficient.

You need to pay monthly salary to your ressources with usually one year minimum contract. So if you don’t have need for quality control whole year long, then you will still have to pay those inspectors for doing nothing.

Tragically, they will mostly perform the same job than regular quality inspectors (inspection via sampling) from a third party inspection company but you will need to train them to report, will need to deal with all cultural aspect of briberies and make sure your staff keep good moral all the time

In which situation this solution is recommended: If you have order all the year long allowing you to make your inspectors always busy

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About Christopher Oliva 77 Articles
Christopher Oliva is an Engineer based in Shenzhen since 2008 involved in Product Development, Supply Chain, Sourcing, Quality Management and Manufacturing activities. With a Msc Electrical Engineering and a Business Administration background, an ISO 9001 Lead Auditor Certification, a Six Sigma Certification and a Quality Engineering Certification, he works as a consultant on mission and contract oriented to Product Development, Manufacturing Management, Quality Assurance & Quality Management System setup. He works in the product development and engineering field, and as well as an advisor and quality consultant for several quality control and quality assurance companies.

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